Installing WeChat to complete a health declaration form isn’t something I expected to find myself doing, but it was necessary to travel to China. I later realised it was also my first taste of how much the Chinese rely on the super app, and a glimpse at how well the their government has invested in an infrastructure that allows super apps to be developed and flourish.
Filling in a form on what we know as a messaging app might not seem like a big deal, but once there, you quickly discover how deeply integrated WeChat is into everyday life there. Unlike WhatsApp, which for many of us a means to stay connected with friends and family, WeChat is used for messaging, payments, bills, getting a cab and much more. It’s such a crucial part of life that in 2022 electronic payments in the country reportedly amounted to a staggering $434.3-trillion.
With more than 100-million adults making their first digital transaction during the Covid era, it’s a huge cultural shift for a country that once prioritised cash.
While the pandemic may have accelerated the use of digital payments, the country’s adoption of technology across various facets of Chinese life is the result of a supportive regulatory framework and huge investment by the government on infrastructure that enables such innovation.
This investment isn’t slowing — according to Bloomberg, “about two-thirds of China’s regions have announced spending plans for major projects such as transport infrastructure, energy generation and industrial parks this year, adding up to more than ¥12.2-trillion ($1.8-trillion).”
The fruits of China’s investment in its infrastructure are omnipresent, especially in the technology sector. Having worked for one of the big five global tech companies and now reporting on consumer and enterprise tech, it’s been interesting to witness the rise of Chinese consumer electronic brands around the world.
Once seen as low quality, they now lead the global consumer technology space in terms of quality, innovation and volume. OPPO, the flagship brand of BBK Electronics, is one such brand making waves globally.
According to Counterpoint Research, OPPO is the fourth-largest smartphone brand in terms of global market share and is a top-three 5G smartphone brand in South Africa.
The global tech community sees the company’s recently released Find N2 Flip phone as the first true challenger to Samsung’s dominance in the foldable market; other Chinese OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have created their own foldables but kept them exclusively domestic. OPPO is also known for its imaging innovation in the form of the MariSilicon neural processing unit, which helped propel the Find X6 Pro to best smartphone camera in the world earlier this year. It’s also used in its new Reno10 Pro+ 5G phone.
The brand’s innovation goes beyond just hardware though. The recently opened AndesBrain (Binhaiwan Bay) IDC, OPPO’s first self-built data centre combining infrastructure and business innovations is one of the most technologically advanced data centres in China.
OPPO isn’t the only successful Chinese technology company taking the world by storm. Electric vehicles (EVs) manufacture by Build Your Dreams (BYD), the country’s biggest such company and which recently launched in South Africa, are available in 50 countries and territories. Moreover, global EV sales are forecast to reach $693.7bn by 2030.
Of the three main markets for EVs — China, Europe and the US — China is the front-runner, accounting for 60% of worldwide sales in 2022. That’s the eighth consecutive year China has been the largest EV market.
More than half of the vehicles on China’s roads are electric and the number is only set to grow.
The success of China’s EV market is attributed to the government’s generous subsidies, procurement contracts, tax breaks and other policy incentives, which not only supported supply and demand but also encouraged consumers make the switch to local EVs that optimised the latest technology to better suit their daily needs than those of imported brands such as Tesla.
When I asked locals for their thoughts on the country’s dominance of technology there was a distinct sense of pride; they spoke about how much the investment in infrastructure has lead to world-class technologies that were developed locally for the Chinese people by Chinese people.
The hostilities between China and the US aren’t an afterthought either; many pointed out that by relying on such impressive home-grown technology and increasing investments into the country’s infrastructure, the country is better suited to withstand whatever challenges will may come their way.
With China accounting for 67% of global smartphone production in 2021 and ever increasing investments into the country’s infrastructure, it’s no surprise the country now leads the technology space.